Storytelling with the Tarot

Thoth EmpressOn Wednesday, May 25th, to celebrate World Tarot Day, I led a workshop entitled ‘Demystifying the Tarot’ at a natural food store in Erin called Treehaven.  The small turnout caused a ‘rethink’ of the structure of this workshop. So, three Tarot peeps… me, a woman who had been part of our bi-monthly Tarot study group and another who I had met through the Guelph Occult Meetup group proceeded to spend 2 hours just talking Tarot. I must say, despite my initial disappointment at the turn out, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

We began by simply talking, about our favourite decks, cards we see often in our Tarot work, our past experience with the Tarot and how we work with it. The three of us asked each other questions. We moved to an unstructured comparative look at cards from different decks, looking at the differing symbols and meanings in front of us.

We then moved to a storytelling activity. I can’t give direct credit as to where I got the idea from but I won’t claim it as my own. I know Rachel Pollack does a significant amount of story-based work in the Tarot. Maybe I read it in one of her works. I was also inspired by the teacher-librarian at my school who had shared a storytelling deck with me that she was using in one of our classrooms.  Regardless, I’m sure it’s an adaptation of someone else’s idea.

To prepare for this workshop, I had previously divided the decks I brought into 3 sections: the pips, the courts and the majors.  I suggested we use these 3 piles to tell a story. We selected the Thoth deck and randomly drew our cast of characters from the courts, our theme from the majors and began developing a plot with the pips. It was a great process. At first, we laughed a little at a suggestion that the story might become risqué. We then began the process. The deck shared our sense of humour and offered up the Empress, home of abundance, fertility, and sensuality,  as our theme.

Thoth Queen of CupsWe continued the exercise by drawing the Queen of Cups as our protagonist (a supportive, but at times overemotional and menopausal mother), the Queen of Swords as a secondary character (her sharp-tongued adult daughter – although, upon reflection, maybe her equally sharp-tongued neighbour would have better suited the Queen but, for our purposes, the daughter worked fine) and then began constructing our story. Our starting plot points were the 6 of disks (success) and the 2 of swords (peace).  I believe, had our time not expired, we would have created quite the story; we appeared to be in fine form 🙂

Try the activity. Divide your deck into three sections (pips, courts, majors). Shuffle them well. Begin by drawing a card from each. Remember that your major card will remain the overarching theme of your story. Draw just one. You drew ‘The Fool’? Your story could develop into an adventure story. ‘The Chariot’? A fast-paced story a la ‘Fast and the Furious’.  ‘The Moon’? Could be a little twisted and scary, don’t you think?

You might find that, once you’ve drawn your characters, beginning your story with ‘Once upon a time, there was a …’ and then proceed to describe the character using your knowledge of the Tarot or the image presented on the card. Then make them go somewhere or do something by drawing cards from the pips.  The 6 of swords might take them on a journey over water, the ace of wands might be the sign of a new song idea or the 5 of pentacles might indicate a struggle to make ends meet.

The three of us decided that at some point, we would take this concept further. If you decide to as well, please feel free to post about here.

‘Demystifying the Tarot’ workshop in Erin

On Wednesday, May 25th, from 6:30 – 8:30, I will be leading a 2-hour workshop entitled ‘Demystifying the Tarot’ at Treehaven Natural Foods in downtown Erin. This introductory workshop will provide attendees with a brief overview of the ‘histories’ of the Tarot, its structure, its meanings and its uses.  Its intent is to shed a little light on this ‘mysterious’ little deck. The cost of the workshop is $15 which also includes light refreshments. The cost for the workshop is payable in advance at Treehaven or at the door. Space is limited so please R.S.V.P. at whitesagetarot@gmail.com,  by calling me at 519-217-7243 or by contacting Treehaven at 519-833-9006.

I will also be available for in-person Tarot consultations on Saturday, May 28th and Saturday, June 25th at Treehaven Natural Foods from 12:00 – 6:00 p.m.  To book your consultation in advance, please use the same contact information stated above.

In Honour of Mothers’ Day

Queen of Cups

It was a recent episode of Modern Family that got me thinking.

Mitchell serves his partner Cameron breakfast in bed and all is well until Cameron realizes that it’s Mothers’ Day. This upset Cameron because he feels that Mitchell is casting him in the role of woman. (As an interesting aside, of all three couples portrayed on Modern Family, it may be the same-sex Mitchell and Cameron who most closely represent the ‘Rockwell-esque’  ideal of the distinctive roles of the two-parent family).

What it made me think about is what and who exactly are we honouring on Mothers’ Day? I suspect the first intent is that we all honour our mother. That’s a given, since we all have one. We may not know her, we may not live with her, we may not talk to her much, but she is the reason we are here. There’s no way around that one (and Happy Mothers’ Day to mine, BTW :)).

But, on this day, (and we might not even realize it) we also honour ‘Mother’. We recognize the importance of the nurturer, the care-giver, the empathetic listener, the cuddler, the keeper of the den, the compassionate one, to name but a few roles that ‘Mother’ would take on.

This week’s ‘Modern Family’ episode reminded me that there is an important distinction between the two.  The episode ended with the acknowledgement that just because Cameron was ‘slightly mommer’ than Mitchell, didn’t make him any less of a man. I know as a half-time single Dad (albeit with significant support from my fiancée), there are many times where I take on a ‘Mom’ role.  But I never feel as if I relinquish my masculinity.  In fact, I believe that by embracing different aspects of the role of mother, regardless of our gender,  we honour the archetype. Actually, a little while ago, while sharing praise for one another as part of a Circle activity, one of the most powerful compliments I ever received from a friend was the following: “Peter, I honour the fact that you don’t always have to act like a man to assert that you are one.”  As a male whose spiritual practice equally celebrates Feminine and Masculine divinity and the importance of those archetypes in all of us, I was touched by the words.

So, this morning, I turned to the Tarot and chose a couple of ‘mothers’ from the deck.  I selected the Queen of Cups from my RWS deck as representative of the role of mother . She is the penultimate listener. She is nurturing and emotionally receptive. I also selected the Empress from the same deck as representative of the Archetype of Mother. The Empress is fertility, compassion and, for fear of sounding a little Freudian :), sensuality.

The RWS Empress

Take a moment and reflect when and where you or others around you play ‘Mom’? Was it while listening to a friend in need? Perhaps you’re a teacher and needed to show compassion to a struggling student? Or maybe you know someone who happily nurses a sick animals back to health?  Find a Tarot deck and select a card that best exemplifies the role played in this situation. If you feel the need, honour us by sharing.

Wishing a Happy Mothers’ Day blessing to all.

BIT and the Guelph Occult Society

Recently, I have joined up with a wonderful and eclectic group of people that meet once a month to discuss all things esoteric. Although I thoroughly enjoy all of the various discussions we have, I am very pleased that several of us are Tarot enthusiasts. There was discussion about exploring the Back in Time Tarot method at an upcoming meeting. Since both my son and my partner are celebrating birthday’s today, I have to miss the February meet-up. I thought I would provide my contribution to the discussion by exploring my recent experience with the Guelph Occult Society using Janet Boyer’s BIT.

Discovery of the group: Ace of Fire – Gaian Tarot: Of all the cards in the Gaian Tarot deck, this one expressed the most potential for me. It symbolizes the passion of a new opportunity and the readiness to send one’s energy out into the world. When I discovered this Meetup group, I was initially filled with creative potential, hoping that this group could be the start of something new.

Apprehension of meeting new people: 5 of Wands – RWS: When two or more people meet, there is always the potential for tension and conflict. When one ventures into a new situation, one often wonders: How will it go? Who will I get  along with? Who will I conflict with? What should I share about myself? What should I not? This five makes me think about wandering out into a new world, regardless of the potential for inner or outer conflict. It underlines the ‘you’ll never know until you try’ mentality.

Can I make it fit into my schedule: 10 of Wands – RWS: Let’s face it, the life of a school principal is hectic enough. And, like everybody else, I have family, friends, loved ones, hobbies and passions that are all deserving of my time. Is there a risk that this once-a-month commitment will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back?  

Excited about ‘New’: Child of Water – Gaian Tarot: Despite the apprehension of meeting new people and the worries about a new time commitment, I find myself like the child in this card, ankle-deep by the shore, eyes fixed on safety yet preparing to explore new waters. Like the ebb and flow of the cool tides at my feet, it is exhilarating!

Community of people in celebration: Three of Cups – RWS: There is a celebratory nature to the 3 of Cups that I have difficulty overlooking. Three women raise their glasses in an unknown toast regardless of differences.  Here’s to the potential for new knowledge, new beginnings and new friendships.

Exploring the mysterious side of life – The Moon – RWS: Rachel Pollack states, in her book “Tarot Wisdomthat our society “has moved… from a solar to a lunar consciousness, from an emphasis on rationalism, clarity and masculine forcefulness to intuition, mystery and subtlety.” Based on the description of the intent of this group, I believe this adequately sums up what I’m looking to explore in our get-togethers.

Enjoying sharing my passion about the Tarot: 6 of Fire – Gaian Tarot: Perhaps because it is a little self-indulgent, I saved this one for the end. I am passionate about the Tarot. In the mainstream, this may be considered as ‘dancing to the beat of my own drummer.’  So be it. Like some, I used to hide my passion for the Tarot in a closed room. Now, I will happily discuss and share all things tarot with anyone open to the idea (and to more than a few people who are not) 🙂  There appears to be a large percentage of people, myself included, interested in learning about the Tarot. That makes this place a safe one to sing my song at the top of my lungs.

Have a wonderful meet-up (whether your there in person or spirit) and feel free to use a new experience as your own BIT exercise. And, if you do, please share!

Three of Earth and Hockley Valley

I found the Three of Earth here 🙂

On Saturday morning, I did what I so often do;  I drew a card from one of my decks. It was the Three of Earth from the Gaian Tarot deck. And, on Saturday morning, I did what I sometimes do; I forgot all about it.

I was hiking alone late that afternoon; halfway through a 6-kilometre hike through Hockley Valley. And I was struck by the beauty that surrounded me. It was as if I couldn’t take it all in. My head turned frantically, trying to look in ten places at once.  So I took out my X10 and started snapping.  I had a strong need to capture everything around me.  The trees were connected to the earth and sky.  The landscape was a never ending expanse of white. The Sun was just about to touch the western horizon. I was struck by the interconnectedness of everything around me. But more than that, I felt I was in the presence of true creation. A community of spirit had gathered together and had made something for me to enjoy. The labour of those who conceived this space had truly created something lasting.  At that moment, I thought of the morning card and smiled.

Here you are, Three of Earth.

Finding a voice and clearing a block

It’s not that the desire to write hasn’t been there. I’ve sat down several times at my computer but no concrete idea has come to fruition. And time has seemed to be at a premium lately. I do have a list, divided by topic, of Tarot writing ideas thumb-tacked above my work space. I placed the list there to remind me of the major topics I’ve committed myself to writing about. It is also there to help spark new ideas. But ideas seem to be fleeting.

I was quite focused this morning. The house was quiet. I made myself a cup of coffee.  I clicked on the fireplace (clearly not as powerful as putting a log on and starting a fire but it’s all I have to work with). I sat on the floor of our pagan room for several moments and cleared my mind.  I went back to the familiar and grabbed my RWS deck, its images familiar to me for over 25 years.  The questions were struggling to form but two main ideas were clearly surfacing: the idea of a lost writer’s voice and the concept of writer’s block. So I went with the following:

Where should I focus my writing voice?

What first step should I take towards clearing my block?

And drew two cards.                                                             

The card related to the first question was The Moon (FYI: capitals for the card; lower case for the celestial body). Now those who know me ‘esoterically’ know I am drawn to the moon. Most rooms in our house have a sun/moon motif. I find the moon in the sky mysterious. I always take few moments to soak in a full moon. My children know anything with a moon on it is always a safe gift for Dad.  

I also find myself equally drawn to The Moon.  Of all the major cards in the deck, The Moon is the one I approach with equal parts apprehension and fascination. It’s symbolism seems a little more hidden to me than most. I like to explore it but, at times, am also frustrated by its secretive nature.

The second card was the Eight of Pentacles, reversed. It’s appearance brought the following conversation to mind:

 “Hi Dr. Tarot. I’m a little worried. I haven’t been able to post a blog for almost two months. I think I have writer’s block.  How do I clear it?”

“Hmmm. Let me see what we have here. Let me think for a moment… Indeed, Peter, you have writer’s block.”

“That was helpful. Thanks, doctor.”

“Don’t mention it.”

At first, the presence of the eight of pentacles reversed seem to only identify the problem as opposed to help work towards a solution. Further reflection (the Moon) brought further insight.

The diagnosis then:  🙂

RWS - XVIII The Moon
RWS - XVIII The Moon

Where should I focus my writing voice? The Moon.  A card of reflection and light. But not a primary light source. The Moon reflects insight and mystery back at us. It is the world’s largest mirror. It helps us as an alternate light source, when our main source of enlightenment is temporarily unavailable. It helps us reflect.  The Moon brought me back the original intent of my blog when I started it almost two years ago. A draft post entitled “The First Musing” never made it ‘to print’ but contains the following quote: “A Magician’s Musings is a place where the Tarot and everyday life come together. As my blog grows, you will find everything from reflections on cards to ‘musings’ on how and where the Tarot creeps in to our daily lives.”  And that’s where my voice should be. In the nooks, crannies and mysteries of everyday life where both the moonlight and the Tarot hide.

RWS - Eight of Pentacles reversed
RWS - Eight of Pentacles reversed

How do I go about clearing my block? Eight of Pentacles, reversed. Since this card reversed could symbolize an obstacle towards rewarding work, this is the card that helps affirm the nature of the problem. I need to recognize it. Name it. I have writer’s block.

I also need to recognize that, in my work with the Tarot, my writing is something I cherish. It is ‘fulfilling work’. The presence of this card reminds me that my block is something I created. And, as my daughter reminded me in a previous post, I can turn the card over and release the block. If I value the act of writing (and I do, I do!!!) then I must both make and take the time to do it. I have a laptop and a desktop at home and no less then than four portables means of recording my writing while mobile. I can find the time to do other less meaningful tasks. There are no excuses, even if I like making them.  Looks like our next meeting will be sooner rather than later ;).

Busy… and still working

WHEW! Over a month since my last post! And I don’t suppose with the holiday season upon us and several Tarot projects on the go, that there appears to be an respite in sight. 🙂

Tarot question, then? What card do you see as a signal that you must, in the words of Simon and Garfunkel, “Slow down, you move too fast”?

My partner and I have both commented that the pace of life seems to have accelerated since we bought our house together in June. The recent cards from my daily draws also seem to reflect a theme of either “busy, busy or busy” or “slow down, because you seem to be busy, busy, busy!” 🙂

To fit with the busy theme 🙂 I will be offering Tarot consultation on the Danforth! I will be at the Awakenings Bookstore at 744 Danforth Avenue (just east of Pape) beginning this Saturday (November 20th) from 12:00 – 4:00. I will also be there Saturday, November 27th from 12:00 – 6:00. You can contact me at 519-217-7243 or contact Natasha at 416-466-2002 to book your reading.